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5 Best Off-Grid Toilet Options to Save Water and Manage Waste

5 Best Off-Grid Toilet Options to Save Water and Manage Waste

Over the past several years, people have begun embracing self-sufficiency in multiple areas of their lives. Solar panels and generators can create power, and water filters can create drinkable water, but what options are there for off-grid toilets?

We’ve found five of the best off-grid toilet options that will help you save water and manage your waste. Let’s get started!

off grid toilet outhouse with waterfall in background
@heggebo via Twenty20

What Is an Off-Grid Toilet?

An off-grid toilet is a waste management system that allows individuals to be entirely self-sufficient in disposing of their waste. Some off-grid toilets are more luxurious than others, but most people who enjoy off-grid living find it’s a small sacrifice to pay.

Some turn the waste into compost. Other systems use septic or holding tanks and function similarly to typical residential home plumbing.

Whats so great about RV composting Toilets? | What You Should Consider Before You Buy

The Benefits of an Off-Grid Toilet?

Having an off-grid toilet can allow you to enjoy life disconnected from the outside world. Whether you’re preparing for the end times or just want to check out and escape the chaos of society for a while, liquid and waste are things you just can’t avoid. An off-grid toilet can allow you to live a rather normal life, despite disconnecting from the grid for a short or extended amount of time.

Many off-grid toilets use minimal amounts of water. This can help you extend the life of your freshwater supply and avoid unnecessarily wasting water with each flush. You don’t want to waste potentially safe drinking water each time you flush a toilet.

As a result, many off-grid users find they can greatly extend their water supply and stay off-grid longer without replenishment. This works great for off-grid cabins or properties without a well, as well as for RVers and boaters.

How Does an Off-Grid Toilet Work?

You can turn Pretty much any toilet into an “off-grid toilet.” Toilets typically function on water and electricity to power a water pump. They often require fresh source water as well as a place to dump the waste.

As long as you can manage your water, electricity, and wastewater off-grid in a safe and sustainable way, any toilet will work.

Some toilet types, however, are better suited to off-grid living due to low water and electricity usage, if they use any at all! You can use anything from a simple catch system with odor management to toilets designed to smartly separate and breakdown the waste.

Let’s take a closer look at the best options for living the off-grid life.

Toilet inside RV
Despite disconnecting from the outside world, you will still need a toilet while living off-grid.

The 5 Best Types of Off-Grid Toilets

If you’re looking for an off-grid toilet, we’ve got a handful of options you might want to consider. Let’s see which one might be right for your specific needs!

1. Regular Toilet

How to Use/Install Off-Grid: If you like the idea of using a regular toilet, having a septic tank is a great off-grid toilet option. This toilet will function much like a typical residential plumbing system but will require off-grid power and water. The plumbing system will need off-grid power to run water pumps to keep water flowing to the toilet and other water fixtures.

Installing a septic tank is likely not a task that most people can DIY. These types of systems must be set up correctly to drain properly and reduce the chances of clogs occurring frequently. However, if you’re looking for full-time stationary off-grid living, you may find this the most comfortable option.

The Price of a Regular Toilet: $1,500 to $5,000

2. Simple DIY Bucket Toilet

How to Use/Install Off-Grid: This option lies on the other end of the spectrum from your regular toilet. You don’t need a fancy setup to use this DIY option. All you’ll need is a bucket and some toilet bag liners to turn a standard bucket into a usable DIY bucket toilet.

Some will include kitty litter, wood chips, or wood shavings under the lining to keep down the smells.

The hardest part with this method is disposing of the waste. You can dig a hole and bury the waste, but then you have to find a safe location to dig a hole and then carry the waste to it.

Alternatively, you can throw the lining bags in the trash. There are solid waste facilities in many counties, but you have to transport it to the facility and ensure you’re properly disposing of it. 

This toilet type works best for very short-term off-grid stays or in a pinch.

The Price of a DIY Off-Grid Bucket Toilet: $10 to $15 

Portable toilet
Take your toilet with you wherever you go with a portable toilet.

3. Portable Toilet

How to Use/Install Off-Grid: Those who enjoy rustic camping often have a good grasp on off-grid living. These portable toilets are great for camping and many other types of off-grid living.

Holding capacities will vary on these, but they’re typically around 5 gallons. You’ll then need to transport the toilet/waste to a place where you can properly and legally dispose of it.

Again, this option is best for shorter-term off-grid stints like camping or boating. They also would work in situations where disposal is made easy. For example, an off-grid guest house where the toilet could be emptied into a regular toilet or septic system.

The Price of a Portable Toilet: $85 to $125

Pro Tip: Want to know more about portable camping toilets? We took a closer look at What They Are and How They Work.

4. Off-Grid Outhouse

How to Use/Install Off-Grid: With the proper tools and a bit of imagination, you can likely create your very own outhouse. You can easily find plans online that will walk you through creating your outhouse structure.

The most important thing to keep in mind with an off-grid outhouse is that you want it at least 100 ft from your clean water source. You should dig a hole that is at least 3 ft wide by 5 ft deep above the water table and flood level.

Many people forget when building their outhouse to put a toilet seat with a lid on it. You want one that will seal the toilet seat from the lid to keep large amounts of flies at bay.

Usually, the waste in off-grid outhouses can break down and decompose without too much heavy use. If the toilet gets too full too fast, you may need to call a pump-out service.

The Price of an Off-Grid Outhouse: $100 to $500

Man peaking through outhouse door
Create your very own outhouse on your off-grid site.

5. Composting Toilet

How to Use/Install Off-Grid: Composting toilets have become increasingly popular in recent years. These off-grid toilets are very similar to the bucket with a lid option we shared earlier. These use minimum amounts of water and allow you to extend your time off the grid by maximizing your water usage.

The liquids flow into a separate tank from the solids. You can empty these in any approved manner. The solids begin breaking down when they enter the specific tank for composting. When emptying the tank, the waste can be thrown in the trash or used as compost on non-edible vegetation. 

These toilets are great for boaters and RVers who like to explore untethered. These are personally our favorite off-grid toilets for several reasons. They are eco-friendly, odor-free, and you end up with compost (practically dirt) rather than raw sewage.

The Price of a Composting Toilet: $800 to $1200

Pro Tip: Ready to commit to the composting toilet life? We found 5 Best Composting Toilets On The Market.

Close up of a composting toilet
Save water by using a composting toilet.

FAQ: What Do You Do With the Waste?

First of all, you should never dump raw sewage directly onto the ground. If you’re disposing of waste yourself, you’ll need to dig a hole deep enough (typically 8 inches to 12 inches) for the waste to absorb into the ground. Cover up the waste and allow the natural decomposition process to do its thing.

Many times you will be able to throw solid waste in the trash just as you would throw diapers away. However, if you have a LOT of waste, you might want to check other waste management options in your city or county.

Some of these locations will offer waste options for those needing to dump toilet waste. However, these will often have specific regulations for how the waste needs to be handled or stored.

Bye Bye Black Tank! - Installing an Airhead Composting Toilet and removing our RV's black Tank

Which Off-Grid Toilet Option Is for You?

Knowing which toilet is best for you will greatly depend on how long you want to spend off-grid. If you’re looking for permanent off-grid living, you’re likely going to want to invest in a system that makes it easy to manage your waste.

You don’t want to be dealing with how to dispose of your waste constantly. Having a backup plan is also very important as you don’t want to find yourself in a pickle trying to figure out how to get rid of your waste. Fortunately, when it comes to your preferred style of off-grid toilet, where there is a will there is a way.

Which off-grid toilet option would you consider? Which off-grid toilet option would you never consider? Tell us in the comments below!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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